The four kingdoms rule in absolute equality, with the Aequi Kentron—the exact center of the land—making sure they all abide by the laws.
Crow’s birthmark marks him as king of the Northlands. The same birthmark that has been burning on his wrist for the past few weeks, as the Golden Eclipse and his trip to the Aequi Kentron nears. He knows it means something, but not what. But the Elder’s Consul has summoned him, along with the rulers of the Westlands, Eastlands, and Southlands, as well. None of them have a choice but to go and take part in the Golden Celebration. When the invitation comes, Crow heads to the Aequi Kentron along with his most trusted protector and advisor.
Tancho’s birthmark has also been bothering him, but it builds a sense of anticipation. He’s been working and learning and training for this moment since he was a child, always groomed to be king and to take part in the celebration on the Golden Eclipse. But once he and his companions arrive in Aequi Kentron, it’s clear something is just not quite right.
The first night, when the four rulers meet with the Elder’s Consul, everything changes. The sparks that fly between Crow and Tancho mark them as having a bond, a lacuna, and they can’t be apart or else they experience incredible pain. None of their questions are answered; only cryptic riddles are given their way. When word comes that Tancho’s home has been invaded by strange, vicious creatures, Tancho must leave and Crow must go with him. Word must alsp be sent back to Crow’s home. Though the Elders are appalled they are leaving, the men refuse to back down. And as they make their escape, the Aequi Kentron appears deserted.
The party moves as fast as it can toward the Westlands. and Crow and Tancho are constantly at each other’s throats. Neither wanted this strange bond between them, and they’d sooner kill each other than get along, despite their instant and complete attraction to each other. But as the journey progresses and they find what is going on, the bond between them begins to change. Tancho and Crow grow closer, and they find the bond that is drawing them together has other abilities.
Everything the rulers learned has been a lie to one degree or another, and a threat faces their homeland that needs to be stopped. Banding together, along with the king and queen of their neighboring kingdoms, is the only way to save their world. And as Tancho and Crow realize the depth of their connection, they begin to realize that they’ve been given a gift. The foe that threatens them must be defeated, and the darkness goes even deeper than they could imagine. The trials they face are huge, but Crow and Tancho are determined to save the world.
Are you looking for an epic high fantasy? Look no further than this book. Walker includes all the elements that make up an all-encompassing, fully fleshed out world. The world building here is intricate and dedicated, with twist and turns even I didn’t see coming. There’s a lot to love and explore here, but it’s best enjoyed reading it yourself, so I’m going to do my best to walk the fine line of not giving spoilers.
The characters in this novel are some of the best written I’ve read in a while. Not only Crow and Tancho, as they are the MCs and it’s told through their third person POVs, but all the secondary characters as well. Crow and Tancho have people in their lives that they are close to, protectors and friends, mentors and loyal subjects. Some have more prominent roles than others, but every character is necessary and vital to the story. There’s a definite found family feeling here, and I loved every second of it. I was as invested in the secondary characters as I was Crow and Tancho.
These two kings at the center of our story really drive the plot. Both Crow and Tancho have been groomed for their role since birth. They are strong, loyal, and fair rulers. They have skills and cunning, intelligence and compassion. But they also have flaws and have a believability to them I really appreciated. It’s no wonder they butt heads from the start. But Walker does and outstanding job of not only showing us both Crow and Tancho’s true hearts, but also how underneath all that combativeness, their chemistry and connection just sings. The stars and magic may have aligned to connect them, but it’s clear they are compatible anyway. The romance side of things is definitely a slow burn. It takes time for them to not only accept their fates are intertwined, but that they want each other. They would have supported each other anyway, because the kingdoms all rule as equals and they are truly compassionate men, but there is other layers at work here. And when they finally act on their attraction and seal their bond, it takes everything to a whole new level.
But the romance is only a part of this story, as integral as it may be. And here’s where I get vague. There is so much going on, right from the start. Walker manages to weave in bits of information that come to fruition, even though they don’t seem like it at the start. There’s mystery and intrigue, and an enemy so great it seems insurmountable. The twists and turns this takes kept me on the edge of my seat, and took me to the point where I wasn’t sure, exactly, who I could trust. I was all in from the start, and turned pages as fast as I could. The only reason that this isn’t a flat out 5 star from me is that there were a few plot points that seemed a little too coincidental, and one point left wide open that left me with questions.
I loved this book. I was engrossed and engaged from the start. The MCs drive the story, and the secondary characters flesh it out and make it whole. The world building is intricate and well-drawn, allowing me to sink into the story and travel to another place. If you love high fantasy, then absolutely pick this up. And if you’re interested in trying high fantasy, then this is one to try.